I’ve been purposely dodging the orange for quite a while now. I sort of awkwardly avoid them, kind of like spotting a former fling from afar and then pretending you did not see them.
I met and fell in love with the orange as a kid, especially when its center was stuffed with sugar cubes so that when you squeezed it, a sweet syrup would erupt forth. But, over the years, I grew tired of the peeling, the separating of the seeds from its flesh, and the tendency for its tart nectar to gush everywhere, resulting in a sticky residue on anything it splashes onto. For me, most times, it’s more work than it’s worth. (I’m not the girl who watches movies with a bag of Sour Patch Kids in her lap.) Nowadays, I pass by them in the grocery store for less fussy fruits like apples or pears. It is a rare occasion that I sit down to an orange. I am put off by its airs. Still, I like oranges, I just don’t love them anymore. Hence, the premeditated exit strategies at the market.
But, then, I saw recipes for candied citrus peel and an orange tart in the January/February issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food digest, and I couldn’t wait to tear open an orange and let its juices run between my fingers as I pulled it apart. I became even more excited about oranges when my grandma saddled me down with five fruits from her tree. When you don’t have a yard of your own, any homegrown fresh fruit is a rare treat that deserves a worthy use of its flavors.
Well, after almost two weeks of idling on the kitchen counter, I finally (Yes, it would seem that I am somewhat of a lazy cook) pared those oranges into its parts. I really wanted to make the tart. I really did. But, I knew no one else would eat it but me. And, for time’s sake, I did not want to waste it for a tart that no one else would eat but me. So, I committed to making the candied orange peels as I had originally planned and decided to make a fruit salad with the leftover meats.
After almost two hours of peeling, slicing, boiling, and ladling, I had a bowl of fruit salad with apples, bananas, pears, and oranges that was fit to feed a family of five and three jam jars stuffed with candied orange peels. And, I can boast that not one part of the orange was wasted, except for the membrane that contains each segment. The fruit salad was a winner, while the candied orange peels were an overall disappointment. Martha’s recipe instructs you to pare the peel from the fruit, while taking care to avoid shaving off any of the white pith. I’ve pared oranges before, but I’m no master, and I will bet that most readers of Everyday Food are no surgical wizards either. So, admittedly, during the process, I took off some of the pith with my peel, and as a result, just as the recipe warns, my candied peels were bitter and mushy. I had expected something more sweet – like candy – but these guys are like sad, wilted flowers or just unappetizing gummy words.
I haven’t thrown them away, yet. I am hopeful they can be saved by mixing them into an oatmeal cookie batter. Coincidentally, I just discovered a wonderful recipe at Smitten Kitchen for a batch that will serve as a solid host for this experiment.
Also, I think this recipe could have turned out better if I had used a vegetable peeler, instead of ambitiously and proudly believing I could thinly slice the rind off. It’s certainly an “A-ha!” moment. And, if I do return to this recipe, I might try to sprinkle the glazed strips of peel with some sugar, cayenne pepper, and paprika a la Trader Joe’s dried chili spiced pineapple bites. They are like potato chips, you cannot eat just one. I mean it. The bag is gone within a half-hour sitting of The Big Bang Theory. Unlike the three jars of candied orange peel currently sitting on top of my refrigerator – you only want to eat just one.
Candied Orange Peel
Adapted from Everyday Food, January/February 2010
1 ½ cups sugar (1/2 cup reserved)
With a sharp paring knife, or vegetable peeler, cut away peel, leaving most of the white pitch on the fruit. Slice peel lengthwise into ¼-inch-wide strips.
In a medium pot of boiling water, cook peel until tender, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer peel to wire rack set over brown paper shopping bags or anything to catch drippings. Spread in a single layer to dry slightly, about 15 minutes.
In the same pot, bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to boil over high, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel and boil until it turns translucent, and somewhat glassy, and syrup thickens, 8-10 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer peel to wire rack, separating the pieces as needed.
Let peel dry 1 hour. Toss with ½ cup sugar to coat. To add a touch of spice, add ¼-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and ¼-1/2 teaspoon paprika to sugar, then toss with peel.
Store peels in an airtight container (i.e. used jam jars) at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.